“Loving Edie: How a Dog Afraid of Everything Taught Me to Be Brave,” the newest memoir from former Chronicle journalist Meredith May, is the story of May and her wife’s experience raising an incredibly anxious puppy.
After May’s second golden retriever passes away, leaving May and her wife, Jenn, dogless, May sets her sights on bringing home a puppy of the same breed she has had for nearly two decades. Yet Ella May and her wife quickly recognize that their new pup, Edith (Edie for short), has a very different temperament from their previous two pets.
Despite May’s attempts to socialize Edie, the retriever appears paralyzed by fear whenever they leave the house, started by San Francisco’s loud noises and sudden movements. Indoors at home, Edie appears at ease. At a certain point, May practically stops leaving the house in order to care for Edie.
Set between San Francisco and Carmel Valley, “Loving Edie” is the story of their family’s trials and tribulations with Edie. They try everything from playing special music designed to soothe dogs to giving Edie doggy CBD to conversing with a dog medium, yet they struggle to see any changes in Edie’s anxiety and comfort from her.
While puppies, especially photogenic golden retriever puppies, often evoke warm fuzzies, the experience of raising a puppy, let alone a very very anxious one, often feels far from the so-called “puppies and rainbows” that one might expect. As I am also a pet parent of two very anxious dogs, I recognized my family’s experience in the pages of this book. And with the rise of pet adoption during the pandemic, I suspect that May’s experience may resonate with many readers.
“Loving Edie” does something that many of my favorite memoirs do: It explores an experience that is more common than you’d think because no one talks about it. As May puts it, “that’s the thing about troubled dogs; While they cause so much stress, on the rare occasions they bring joy, the overwhelming flood of gratitude is so intense that it more than makes up for all the difficulty they’ve caused. Their lows are lower, yet their highs are astronomically higher.”
May, whose previous memoir, “The Honey Bus,” explored her upbringing by her beekeeper grandfather in the wake of her parents’ divorce, is no stranger to using narrative to explore familial struggles and pain.
Over the course of “Loving Edie,” May comes to better understand herself. She writes:
“Knowing how lonely it feels to spend a childhood trying to get your parents to pay attention to you made me terrified that I might put my own child through the same thing, even without realizing it. I’m sure everyone worries about being a good parent, but I didn’t trust that I could overcome the double whammy of my DNA and my broken childhood to even know what nurturing looks like.
“But Edie, in her slow, deliberate, neurotic way, is proving me wrong.”
“Loving Edie” is a delightful lesson in patience, self-reflection and hope.
Loving Edie: How a Dog Afraid of Everything Taught Me to Be Brave
By Meredith May
(Park Row Books; 304 pages; $24.99)
Book Passage Corte Madera presents Meredith May in conversation with Julian Guthrie: Virtual event. 5:30 pm May 5. Free. 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. 415-927-0960. bookpassage.com